December 6, 2001
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Mullah Omar to surrender Kandahar: Reports

Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is reportedly engaged in talks with the Afghan opposition forces to surrender the group's last remaining stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

There were conflicting reports about the aim of the talks.

While some said he has agreed to hand over the city to a local mujahideen commander, others said he was seeking amnesty for himself and other top colleagues in return for handing it over.

The former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef said Mullah Omar, and other Taliban leaders have agreed to surrender Kandahar to tribal leaders on Friday.

However, the Taliban leaders have decided not surrender their weapons to Hamid Karzai, the head of the Afghan interim administration, a report quoted Zaeef as saying.

The report also said that Kandahar would be handed over to a local mujahideen commander Mullah Naqibullah in stages.

Zaeef was also quoted as saying that the Taliban was finished as a political movement.

"I think we should go home," he said according to the report.

On the question of protection to Mullah Omar Zaeef reportedly said, "I don't know about the guarantees, but Hamid Karzai and the tribal leaders have promised him protection."

Meanwhile, ruling out any offer of surrender to Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan interim government, Hamid Karzai, however, said he was willing to offer a general amnesty to other Taliban fighters willing to lay down arms.

He was speaking to a news agency.

The report said that Karzai held a second straight day of talks with top Taliban officials regarding his offer of amnesty.

Earlier, United States spokesman Kenton Keith in Islamabad had said that the Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar might be negotiating his surrender to the new Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai.

"I can tell you authoritatively that some of Mullah Omar's most senior commanders are negotiating their own surrender," Keith told mediapersons.

"You should also take seriously reports that Mullah Omar himself is negotiating to save his own skin," he added.

The Times, quoting negotiators from both the Taliban and the Afghan opposition forces, had also reported that Omar was willing to surrender Kandahar, provided he and other senior Taliban leaders were granted amnesty.

Asked about the US spokesman's comments Karzai said, "It's not true."

He clarified that the amnesty offer was for Taliban soldiers, and not the Taliban leadership.

Many of the Taliban soldiers are from the Popolzai tribe, to which Karzai belongs.

Karzai is expected to take over the reigns of the government from the de facto president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, on December 22.

He expressed optimism that Kandahar would fall by then.

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